Artistic reflections on Tisha b’Av

Art Works: Michael Rogatchi (C), Inna Rogatchi ©.

This year, 5779, or 2019 for the rest of the world, on August 9th, a very special Shabbat is coming, the one that gets straight into Tisha b’Av, 9th Av, ‘a marker’ in our Jewish annual calendar resonating with so many tragedies throughout our long and unique history. 

The tragedies ancient and so very fresh and recent ones, all essentially painful, with the present ones are getting into one’s heart with no anesthesia, with one more scar added to our common Jewish heart. Sometimes, one can think that our common Jewish heart made of scars, that those scars are the very tissue of it. Having survived all those scars and living with them, Jewish nation is unique in its endurance. 

What’s the secret of this endurance? In my view, it is our dialogue with the Creator, very personal one for every single Jew, even not religious one, and often shared and collective one for those who are members of the religious communities. It is our Torah, the source of wisdom, fairness and kindness. It is our heritage, our traditions, our values, our fundamental humanism based on it all, and originated from those sources of life for Jewish people. It is our heart learned in generations. The heart made of scars. And our memory lives it its own landscape, for almost six thousand years by now. 

Inna Rogatchi(C). LANDSCAPE OF JEWISH MEMORY.   2017.  

It is a common place in a Jewish studies to refer to all those numerous and major calamities that did occur on 9th Av throughout the history. And it is registered in our mind, as a part of our general knowledge. But when an artist reflects on this chain of solemnity, it gets into another dimension. Our neutral knowledge being visualised all of the sudden gets the volume. Importantly, it is not a volume of an amplified selfishness of an artist, but it is a volume of shared emotions, shared memory, and shared experience of our people.  This is what a real, non-egoistic, even anti-egoistic art brings to us. 

The art reflections on the theme of the 9th Av in this review gets us to the destroyed for many decades Hurva Synagogue with its standing lonely Arc so vulnerable and so memorable that it has become a part of our love to Jerusalem, even after Hurva has been restored in all its splendor. It is a rare case when a ruin can command all-consuming love, but in Jerusalem, it is natural thing to happen. The work is part of the Permanent Art Collection of the Municipality of Jerusalem.

Michael Rogatchi(C). My Stones: Jerusalem.  1993. Permanent Art Collection, Municipality of Jerusalem, Israel.

It also gets us to the formatting Jewish history – and Jewish character to large extent too – expulsion from Spain, this art study speaks on Toledo, the origin place of my paternal family. The expulsion of Jews from Spain back in 1492 formed not only our history and character substantially. It did affect the history of Europe, the history of the world, the entire route and impulse of mankind’s development in many respects. One can feel the void of Jews, our culture, tradition and our heritage in Spain till this very day. It is palpable there, and still be deeply sad, five centuries on.

Michael Rogatchi(C). TOLEDO. 1492.  2005. 

Gush Katif in 2005  had happened the next day after Tisha b’Av, and the hearts of many people bled then. Not all of them, clearly, and maybe it was even a minority. But the tragedy it was for Jewish people on the Jewish land, and there is the art that reflects on it, as well, on this fresh Tisha B’Av wound. 

Michael Rogatchi (C). SPIRAL OF FATE. GAZA. 2005. 2005.

What’s left of the Beit Hamikdash, both of which had been destroyed on Tish b’Av is the priceless corn-stone of Judaism, the Kotel. The feeling of the Kotel is absolutely individual, and if some editor could come with a special anthology in which the reflections of many talented and special people on the Kotel would be collected, it would be one of the great readings ever, in my opinion. And the memory accumulated in the Kotel’s stones is the guarantee of our survival.

Michael Rogatchi (C). KOTEL MEMORIES.  1999. The Rogatchi Art Collection.

What the Kotel does to us? In my perception and experience, it settles setbacks, all of it, of whatever character, and it as if cleans oneself from inside. Why it is? Because most of the innumerous number of people visiting it day and night are coming there with their best intentions. Human energy does not disappear. Especially from such unique people as the Kotel. This is to speak only on the tangible aspect of the Kotel.

The stones of the Kotel, and the spirit hovering there is always there for us, it always ready to listen to every one of us. 

On the eve of the 9th Av, Tisha b’Av, I am just thinking: are we ready to in-tune ourselves to the Presence of the Kotel in our lives? Hope so.